CRICKET: Players' pay demands hit straight bat

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The Independent Online

The Test and County Cricket Board has given a cool reaction to the pay demands of English players. The Cricketers' Association wants a minimum wage of £20,000 for capped players - a rise of £5,500 - and has told the counties of its "extreme disappointment" that such a deal could not have been put in place for the coming season.

"We have set out our position fairly and squarely - an unsatisfactory situation currently exists and we want to hammer out a solution," David Graveney, the association's general secretary, said. The club chairmen, however, feel the wheels are already in motion - through a special liaison committee set up last December - to sort out the situation. The players will meet the TCCB on Monday.

As well as pressing for more money, the players have called for centrally employed groundsmen, to try to stop clubs producing "result wickets" for four-day Championship games that fail to last the distance.

The TCCB yesterday decided instead to stiffen the penalty system for poor pitches. An unfit surface will still result in the home club being docked 25 points, but there will also be a sliding scale of warnings and points deductions for clubs judged guilty by the umpires of producing under-prepared pitches. A national Under-17 competition, featuring all counties, will start this year.